Say No More

Sneak Peek: Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan

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Say No More by Hank Phillippi RyanWhen Boston reporter Jane Ryland reports a hit and run, she soon learns she saw more than a car crash—she witnessed the collapse of an alibi. Working on an expose of sexual assaults on college campuses for the station’s new documentary unit, Jane’s just convinced a date rape victim to reveal her heartbreaking experience on camera. However, a disturbing anonymous message—SAY NO MORE—has Jane really and truly scared.

Homicide detective Jake Brogan is on the hunt for the murderer of Avery Morgan, a hot-shot Hollywood screenwriter. Her year as a college guest lecturer just ended at the bottom of her swimming pool in the tight-knit and tight-lipped Boston community called The Reserve. As Jake chips his way through a code of silence as shatterproof as any street gang, he’ll learn that one newcomer to the neighborhood may have a secret of her own.

A young woman faces a life-changing decision—should she go public about her assault? Jane and Jake—now semi-secretly engaged and beginning to reveal their relationship to the world—are both on a quest for answers as they try to balance the consequences of the truth.

Say No More, the thrilling next installment in Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Jane Ryland Series, will become available November 1st. Please enjoy this excerpt.

1

JANE RYLAND

“Did you see that silver Cadillac? What he did?” Jane Ryland powered down the car window to get a better look. “He plowed right into that delivery van! Pull closer, can you?”

“Anyone hurt?” Fiola kept her eyes on the cars stopped ahead of them in the Monday morning rush on O’Brien Highway.

Squinting through the sun’s glare, Jane could just make out the Caddy’s red-and-white Massachusetts license plate up ahead in the lane to her right. “I can’t tell yet. We need to get closer.”

“Should I call the cops?” Fiola asked.

“Hang on. W-R-C, one-R-four.” Jane recited the license number while scrambling in the side pocket of her canvas tote bag for a pencil. No pencil. Some reporter. Using one forefinger, she wrote it in the dust of the news car’s grimy dashboard, for once the miserable housekeeping of Channel 2’s motor pool working in her favor. Then, before she remembered she wasn’t in jeans, she swiped the leftover grime down the side of her black skirt. Nine-forty A.M., if the dashboard digital was correct. The time wouldn’t matter, nor would the plate number, but it was all reporter reflex.

“Jane? Can you see yet?”

Fiola Morrello—not Fiona, as she’d reminded Jane a few hundred times already—had insisted on driving, even though she’d arrived in Boston only last week. Jane had protested once. Then, recognizing the sometimes-contentious reporter-producer dynamic, let her new producer take the wheel. That’s why Fiola got the big bucks, right?

Jane was more comfortable being in the driver’s seat, but the two new colleagues would work it out. Jane hoped.

“Almost.” She leaned out the window, far as she could, her bare forearm braced on the sunbaked door panel. Their white Crown Vic inched ahead toward the silver car, Jane’s passenger-side window scarcely moving closer to the driver’s side of the Caddy. “Sure sounded bad.”

The chunky new Cadillac had hit a green Gormay on the Way delivery van, the popular take-out restaurant a culinary necessity for college kids, as well as the darling of Boston’s overscheduled millennials and overworked professionals. Including Jane. It was obviously the Caddy’s fault, so the drivers should have been exchanging insurance papers and calling the cops themselves. Damage or not, that big new car had banged into the older van’s rear. Jane had seen—and heard—the whole thing.

“Is the Caddy driver on his cell?” Fiola asked. “Or should I call?”

“He’s just sitting there.” Jane watched the man stare straight ahead, both hands clamped on the steering wheel, acting as if nothing happened. Good luck with that, buddy, she thought. You can’t pretend a car accident away. “Why doesn’t he get out? Check on the delivery guy?”

As they crept closer, Jane catalogued the driver’s face, top to bottom, as she’d been taught back in journalism school. Middle-aged, Caucasian, widow’s peak, grayish hair, pointy cheekbones, thin lips, clean-shaven.

“Is this a Boston thing? Ignoring an accident?” Fiola, keeping one hand on the wheel, had grabbed her phone. “What if he’s hurt? I’m gonna call.”

“Yeah.” Jane wrapped her fingers around the door handle, ready to leap out if need be. The stoplight was still red, the ridiculously long wait at the intersection straddling Boston proper and neighboring Charlestown now working in their favor. “Something’s happening.”

The Gormay van’s driver-side door opened. Out came a man’s leg—running shoe, khaki pants. The left-turn arrow light turned green. The cars on Fiola’s left pulled away, headed toward Beacon Hill.

“What do we do?” Fiola said. “When the light changes in a second, we’ll be blocking traffic.”

“Don’t move. The people in front of us can go.” Jane twisted around, looked over the leather seat back. “No one’s behind us, it’s fine. Light’s still red. Go ahead, call.”

Another running shoe, another khaki leg. And then the face of the van driver, shadowed by the curved metal door open behind him. He stopped, both feet planted on the pavement, apparently leaning sideways against the front seat. Hurt?

“That guy doesn’t look right,” Fiola said.

“Nine-one-one,” Jane said. “Do it.”

Three lanes of lights above them turned green. Instantly, a cacophony of horns began, each driver behind the Caddy apparently feeling compelled to remind their fellow motorists what green meant.

Their news car was kind of blocking traffic, but what if this was a story? The other drivers would have to go around while the accident scene got worked out.

But the Caddy driver still stared straight ahead. Then, with a wrench of his steering wheel and a squeal of tires, he jammed the car into reverse, veered to the right, swerved forward and across the right lane, other cars twisting out of his path, honking in protest. With a clamor of horns complaining, he peeled away, fishtailed once, spitting pebbles. The big car jounced over a jutting curb as it lost its battle with the acute angle of the turn onto the cross street, and barreled through the graffiti-slashed concrete beneath the Green Line underpass. Jane could almost hear the roar of acceleration as the Caddy sped into the distance, vanishing into the gritty construction-clogged labyrinth of Charlestown.

“Are you kidding me?” Jane yelled at the universe, yanking open her car door, waving her arms, signaling Go around! to the driver now honking impatiently behind her. Though the van’s rear fender hung distressingly askew, this wasn’t newsworthy enough to make TV. Still, it was the principle of the thing. The Caddy hits a van, then tries to get away with it? Middle-aged, Caucasian, widow’s peak, gray hair, pointy cheekbones, thin lips, clean-shaven.

“Hit-and-run?” Jane could hear the incredulity in her own voice. “Tell the cops—”

“I got this.” Fiola, phone to her ear, pointed to the van. “Go check on the guy.”

“I’ll check on the guy,” Jane said at the same time. So much for Jane and Fiola’s plans. Their interview at the college would have to wait. They’d been early—imagine that—so there was still an acceptable window of not-quite-lateness. Jane trotted up to the delivery truck, looking both ways, then all ways, remembering she was a defenseless pedestrian navigating four lanes of determined chrome and steel. At least the other drivers, now veering around the two stopped vehicles, seemed to acknowledge the potential danger. Day one of her new assignment—two steps forward, one step back.

Maybe two steps back, she thought, as she saw the driver. A young man, arms sticking out of a pale blue uniform shirt, a thin trickle of blood down the side of his face, turned to her. He touched a finger to his check, then looked at the smear of red it left, frowning.

“Are you okay?” Jane could see the young man’s body trembling. He opened his mouth, then said … something. Not in English.

“I’m sorry, I’m Jane Ryland. From Channel 2? My producer’s calling nine-one-one. I saw what happened, okay? Are you hurt?”

The man pointed toward the back of his van. He wants to see the damage, Jane thought. Makes sense. Maybe he’s in shock.

“Yeah, I know,” she said, trying to look supportive and sympathetic. “Stinks. But come see. There’s not much damage.”

The man approached, crouched on the pavement, and ran his finger over the dent, leaving a smudge of red on the pale green paint. He stood, then rattled the twin chrome handles of the van’s double back doors. They didn’t open.

“Are you okay?” Jane persisted. “It looks like you’re bleeding a little.”

“Cops on the way!” Fiola’s voice came from behind them.

“The police are coming,” Jane repeated. Why hadn’t he said anything? “Sir?”

Middle-aged, Caucasian, widow’s peak, her brain catalogued again, gray hair, pointy cheekbones, thin lips, clean-shaven. She replayed the moment of the collision, the sound of it, the sight of it, making it indelible. Middle-aged, Caucasian, widow’s peak, gray hair, pointy cheekbones, thin lips, clean-shaven. Yes, she’d remember. She’d recognize him.

And she’d get Jake to run the license number through his magic cop database. Not that he was supposed to do that unless he was working the collision, which he wouldn’t be, let alone telling her what he found. Not that she could use the information, or would even need it. But anyway. Be interesting to know.

Still silent, the food truck driver finally seemed to acknowledge her, his eyes wide, inquiring. A siren, faint but recognizable, materialized from somewhere behind them. The cavalry. She and Fiola could still make their interview, Jane calculated. After this tiny and unremarkable good deed. Being a successful reporter was all about karma.

Then the van driver pivoted, so quickly Jane stepped back, and with one thick-soled running shoe he kicked the white-walled left rear tire. He spat out a few words, almost yelling, in a language Jane didn’t understand.

He kicked the tire again, then looked at her, palms outstretched. That, Jane understood. What the hell? This is crazy.

“Yeah, I know.” Jane nodded, sympathetic.

“You?” The man pointed to her. He could talk—that was good. Not in shock.

“See?” He seemed to be searching for the word. “You see?” The siren grew louder. Any second now, the cops would be here, she’d be gone, and she’d never think of this again.

“Yes, I see. Saw.” Jane held out both hands, nodding, smiling, the international language for ‘everything is going to be fine.’ With one finger, she pointed to her chest, then to her eyes, then to the place where the silver Cadillac had been. And then to the direction it had vanished.

“No question,” she said. “I saw everything.”

Copyright © 2016 by Hank Phillippi Ryan

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